The Best Time to Visit Paris; What the Guide Books Don’t Tell You

You’re thinking “seasons” to visit Paris, right? While there are countless songs about the best time to visit Paris or when someone most loves Paris, I’ve found my own best time to visit Paris.

Best time to visit Paris

Paris in the Early morning

The day began as another moving day for me. A day when I pack up my suitcases, make my way to the appropriate train station and leave Paris, onward to a new destination.

Best time to Visit Paris is when there's no traffic at Place du Mexico.
I leaned a little too far out of my hotel room’s French balcony to make sure I could capture the entire Place de Mexico roundabout.

With daylight barely visible through the light-blocking gray draperies in my hotel room, I suddenly awoke. I think I was simply anxious to absorb some last minute Parisienne ambiance, which extended onto narrow streets that radiated like wheel-spokes in front of my neighborhood hotel, Le Metropolitan.

The warm weather throughout Europe last week segued into record cold and rain in France. Paris in the rain. In April. For what more could I wish. Was this the best time to visit Paris?

Paris:  7:00 AM

I quickly threw on the day’s traveling clothes. I grabbed my well-worn leather gloves from Rome, my knitted cap from Zurich and slipped my Longchamps backpack from last year’s Paris trip, over my shoulders.

Heading to the door, I zipped up my charcoal-colored puffy jacket that I bought two years ago in Hamburg and wrapped my neck with a very old dark green and gold pashmina someone bought for me in Afghanistan. Sneakers courtesy of Foot Locker, U.S.A.

As I pushed open the heavy glass and brass door of Le Hotel Metropole, I breathed in a fresher and different air than I remembered. Paris in the Morning.

Early morning on an empty street in Paris
No one was outside yet. I almost had the street to myself.
Hotel Metropole at Place de Mexico
No worries to stand in the middle of this otherwise busy Place de Mexico.

These otherwise busy streets, usually frantic with tiny Smart cars, white delivery vans and shiny black taxis, were quiet. Unusually quiet. So empty, in fact, I was able to stand without worry at the center of the Place de Mexico to take a photo of my hotel (the narrow building with green awnings).

Rather than sit in the empty hotel dining room, still slightly chilled from a damp, cool overnight, I walked to McDonald’s. Or “McDoo” as they say in Paris.

It was a short distance to get an Italian cappuccino from America’s Ronald. There was only one other person in sight. It was 8am for Pete’s sake…where was everyone?

When I reached Ave. Victor Hugo and McDonald’s, I saw the stirrings of a new day. Flower vendors were setting up folding tables underneath white canopied tents. An occasional woman in a long wool coat trailed by a canvas “bubby” cart, maneuvered her way around sidewalk obstacles.

With the scent of fresh-baked croissants, early morning must be the best time to visit Paris

McCafe was open. Three college age Parisienne girls helped me, albeit in French, find the proper McCafe entrance. At this early hour, the main McDonald’s was still closed. I was surprised to see three shiny red and silver espresso machines ready for a morning rush. “Un pain du chocolat et cappuccino, s’il vous plait,” I managed to say, with my horrible French accent. I hoped I said it correct – I must have because that’s exactly what I received.

Now it was slightly after 8am as I walked out the McDoor. Within the last five or so minutes, Paris woke up as if by a simultaneous silent alarm clock. That was when I realized this was the best time to be in Paris – as the City of Light awakens.

With my McCafe in one hand and my iPhone in the other, I managed to get a few street photos to capture a few early morning moments in Paris.

Best time to visit Paris is when the fish monger sets up the Poissonnerie.
The fish monger at Les Belles Feuilles (The Beautiful Leaves) unloads crates of ice while awaiting the fresh catch to arrive.
Next door at the charcuterie, the butcher sets up the display case.
Rotisserie chickens in Paris
Seemed a bit early, but slow-cooked rotisserie chickens are very popular in Paris.
Fruit stand in Paris
I love springtime white asparagus. Too bad I had no place to cook them.

As I walked back to my hotel, I opened my eyes to notice and absorb the details. Small shops were setting up, their insides exposed behind once-folded corrugated steel doors. Fish, meats and fresh produce.

The baker looked up long enough for me to get his picture.

The bread baker was busy rolling out dough on machines. He smiled when I took his photo. I was elated. I almost felt like I was French, poking my nose and peering into various markets, deciding what I would cook for the day. Sadly, that would have to wait for another time. I would leave Paris in three hours.

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Eiffel Tower Paris seen from a narrow street
Seriously, one glance over my shoulder and there’s this. Could early morning be the best time to visit Paris?

Into the darkened, velvet-chaired hotel lobby and up the spiral stairs to my room. My cappuccino safely placed on the little table, I tossed my pain du chocolate and another plain croissant onto the bed.

I opened the draperies to see French doors across the street opened wide despite the chilly, damp morning. Their sheer curtains seemed to wave good morning to passers-by.

In the solitude of my hotel room, a fresh breeze blowing in, I carefully picnicked on the bed…yesterday’s copy of Le Figaro newspaper as my blanket.

Suitcases packed, remnants of my petit déjeuner in the waste basket, I looked one more time out of my window. It was only three days in Paris. But I found the sweet, and bittersweet, perfect time to visit Paris. As the city comes to life. In the early morning.

When is your best time to be in Paris?

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